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Turkey time

Outta' the Woods

Monday, March 01, 2010

Media contact: Tony Young

Better start brushing up on your turkey calling, because spring gobbler season's here.  Whether you prefer to use a mouth call, box call, slate or any combination, March means it's time to start talkin' turkey.

One of the most coveted and sought-after game species in Florida is the Osceola turkey, also known as the Florida turkey.  This unique bird is one of five subspecies of wild turkey in North America.

The Osceola lives only on the Florida peninsula and nowhere else in the world, making it extremely popular with out-of-state hunters.  They're similar to the Eastern subspecies (found in the Panhandle) but tend to be a bit smaller and typically are darker with less white barring on the primary flight feathers of their wings.

The white bars on the Osceola are narrower, with an irregular, broken pattern, and don't extend to the feather shaft.  When the wings fold across the back, the whitish triangular patch formed is less prominent on the Osceola because of this.  And, Osceola feathers tend to show more iridescent green and red colors, with less bronze than the Eastern.

The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognize any wild turkey harvested within or south of the counties of Dixie, Gilchrist, Alachua, Union, Bradford, Clay and Duval to be the Osceola subspecies.  Eastern turkeys and hybrids are found north and west of these counties into the Panhandle.

The highly anticipated spring turkey season runs March 6 - April 11 in the South Hunting Zone and March 20 - April 25 in the Northwest and Central zones.  The exception is Holmes County, where the season runs March 20 - April 4.

Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only, and the daily bag limit is one.  The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where the season limit is one.

Shotguns are the best choice when hunting turkeys, but if you're so inclined, you may use a rifle, muzzleloader or handgun, or you can try your luck with a bow or crossbow.

Shooting hours on private lands are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on wildlife management areas (WMAs), you must quit hunting at 1 p.m.

Of course, you can use turkey decoys to help entice that stubborn old bird, but you're not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs, use recorded turkey calls or sounds, shoot them while they're on the roost or over bait.  You also can't hunt them when you're within 100 yards of a game-feeding station, when feed is present.

To participate in spring turkey hunting, you'll need a Florida hunting license and a turkey permit.  If you plan to pursue a gobbler on one of Florida's many WMAs, you also must purchase a management area permit.

All of these licenses and permits are available at county tax collectors' offices, most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, by calling toll-free 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356) or online at

If you didn't put in for a special-opportunity or quota permit, don't worry, several WMAs don't require them.  Visit and under "This Month's Hunting Opportunities," click on " Spring turkey: Where to hunt without a quota permit" to see a list of WMAs where you need only a hunting license, management area permit and turkey permit to hunt spring turkeys.

If you take a turkey with at least an 11-inch beard and 1 ¼-inch spurs, get your name listed in the FWC's Wild Turkey Registry by applying for an "Outstanding Gobbler Certificate."  There's also a "First Gobbler Certificate" awarded to hunters under age 16 who harvest their first gobbler, regardless of beard and spur measurements.  Applications for both are available at

Whether it's going solo after that elusive old tom or double-teaming a pair of birds with your buddy, March means spring gobbler season.

Here's wishing you a successful spring turkey season.  Remember to introduce someone new to the sport of hunting when you can.  As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we'll see you in the woods!

FWC Facts:
A group of stingrays is called a fever.

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